Morpheus, who mentors the main character Neo in the Matrix films, was actually inspired by a character created by Neil Gaiman in The Sandman.
Neil Gaimans The Sandman is widely hailed as one of the greatest comics ever written. What many don’t know, however, is that its protagonist, known as Dream or Morpheus, actually inspired the Wachowskis to create the iconic character of Morpheus for the film The matrix.
This may sound shocking given the differences between the two stories. The Sandman is a work of fantasy and horror that extends over time and in which gods, demons and important historical figures are prominently represented. In contrast, the matrix is a philosophical cyberpunk thriller that explores post-apocalyptic dystopian fights and gun-fu fights. However, the character of Morpheus perfectly combines these two very different universes.
The protagonist of Neil Gaimans Sandman is Dream, AKA Morpheus, who is the living personification of dreaming. He is one of seven immortal siblings known as the Endless, who are even more powerful than the gods. However, the Endless are restricted by rules as each has a very specific nature and domain over which they rule. Mortals enter Dream’s realm when they sleep, and he sometimes blesses them with gifts that inspire their waking lives. Clad in dark robes, he is a wise, stoic, and enigmatic figure, and as the series progresses, he proves that even one who is Endless is capable of change (and the limits of such change).
the matrix‘s Morpheus (played by Lawrence Fishburne) is the enigmatic captain of a group of hacktivist vigilante groups who steer a ship through a post-apocalyptic world where most people are encapsulated and siphoned off from the machines that control the world. These trapped people are hooked up to a neural interface program called the Matrix that simulates contemporary reality. Morpheus is a dreamer who believes in the prophecy of “the One”, a person destined to save humanity. Morpheus finds Neo, whom he believes is the one to wake him from the hallucinated sleep of the Matrix and teach Neo to bend the rules of reality.
It’s not hard to see how the character Dream / Morpheus looks like Sandman inspired the dreamer in Morpheus The matrix who wakes those who are trapped in artificial slumber. The Wachowskis were inspired by numerous existing works, including The Sandman. Interestingly, sometime in the 1990s, Lawrence Fishburne met DC Comics director Jenette Kahn on a plane and she gave him a box Sandman Comics. Fishburne didn’t start reading the books, however, until he was cast in his now famous role, after which he asked the Wachowskis about the similarities. The directors instructed him to play the role of The matrix‘s Morpheus as if he were in Morpheus The Sandman.
Shortly after filming was completed, Neil Gaiman was asked by the Wachowskis to write a story tied to the film. That story, “Goliath”, was part of a comic strip with artwork by Bill Sienkiewicz and Gregory Ruth The Matrix Comics Series 1. In other words, Gaimans Sandman Comic inspired the film The matrix which resulted in his being hired to do one matrix Comic. It speaks to how far the rabbit hole really goes.
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